This morning we arrived in Kobe, Japan. We met the pilot boat at 4am to guide us in, but we didn't actually dock until about 8:00am. Geno and I got up at 7:00am to see us come into the port. We haven't missed coming in to a port yet and we only have 4 more to go: Yokohama, Honolulu, Hilo, and SAN DIEGO!!! As we came in there was a brass band playing on the pier. They were playing mostly American music like John Philip Sousa marches... so fun!
Anyway, we had quite an ordeal getting off the ship today. Every single person on the ship had to have their temperature taken to make sure they didn't have a fever. So we all paraded through the Union and then we had to wait about 2 hours before they started letting people off the ship to go through immigration. They called the faculty and staff at 10:30am and it took us an hour standing in line to go through. They took our pictures, scanned our passports, and took our fingerprints. There were some students that didn't get off the ship until 2:00pm. I am glad we got off earlier!
We couldn't go too far because we had a Bunraku theatre performance to attend later on. We took the monorail 2 stations in and found a wonderful sushi place on the 7th floor of a shopping center. We had "conveyor belt sushi;" the Japanese call it kaiten sushi. You sit in a booth and as the sushi goes by, you just pluck it off the conveyor belt and eat as much or as little as you want. The plates are color coded so at the end of the meal the waitress adds up the colors on your table and gives you a total. So cool!
That afternoon/evening we went to the National Bunraku Theatre of Japan in Osaka. This was Geno's FDP (Faculty Directed Practicum) and I had given a big presentation on it for my class so we were both excited to see this performance.
Bunraku theatre is a form of Japanese puppet theatre. There is a Narrator who tells the story and acts as the voice for all of the puppets on stage. Sitting beside him is the Shamisen who is playing a three stringed instrument called... who knew... the Shamisen. The narrator's most valued possession is the script he uses on stage. The tradition is for the narrator personally to copy out each libretto he uses in the performance. The bunraku puppets require three puppeteers: one puppeteer for the feet, one for the left hand and one for the right hand and head. Their movements are incredibly subtle; some even have eyebrows that move and mouths that open and close. Also, the puppeteers are onstage with their puppets the whole time, but they are dressed in black. The only puppeteer that shows his face is the master puppeteer who controls the head and the right hand. The stories that are told date from the 1700's and are the source of over ½ of the Kabuki repertoire. We were so glad we got to see this important piece of Japanese theatre. We are just getting so much smarter every single day!
Our second day in Kobe we felt exhausted so we slept in for the first time in about 3 months and headed out about 10:00am with a fellow faculty member and friend, Linda. We walked for miles exploring the city and wandering through many shopping districts. We found a few gifts and ended up at the Harbor Village where we had a small lunch. Then, we got some groceries for our big 10 day Japan to Hawaii crossing and rested a little more. That evening we got back off the ship and went in to Sanomiya station where we had some wonderful tempura. We went in not knowing what we were going to eat, but luckily they had an English menu. Our waitress just talked and talked to us in Japanese about how to prepare our salad dressing and what we would like to drink. We just smiled and pointed to what we wanted on the menu and said "arigato" which is "thank you" in Japanese. Our waitress brought us a bowl of sesame seeds and wooden pestle as well as a tray of three different sauces. We were sitting at a counter so we acted like we were talking to each other but I was looking behind Geno to see how the people beside him were preparing their sauce and he was looking behind me doing the same. We figured it out by watching and ended up having a great meal. Our next and final international port is Yokohama. We have an overnight trip to Tokyo and Mt. Fuji planned - I hope the weather is good.
-The toilets in Japan are SUPER deluxe. I posted some pictures (yes, of the toilet). They have options for music, a flushing sound to cover your "toilet business," a water spray, and heated seats. Quite a change from the squat toilets we have been getting used to!
-Everything in Japan is expensive. We couldn't believe how fast our money went